Whenever I visit Israel, I see things not as a tourist, but as an…observer. It helps one discover the story behind the story.
One afternoon, while visiting the Mount of Olives, I spent some time looking at the Seven Arches Hotel, which overlooks the slopes of the mountain, and the stark Jewish tombs in view of the Temple Mount opposite.
Originally the Intercontinental Hotel, and built in 1964 with help from Pan American Airlines, the Seven Arches was also the scene of the PLO’s first Palestine National Council, in May, 1964.
Like a resort frozen in the time of Sean Connery’s James Bond, the Seven—what’s that? When was the Palestine Liberation Organization founded, you ask? Why, I see that you are particularly observant and discerning.
The PLO was indeed founded in 1964, so when the terror group convened at the Seven Arches, its agenda was in full force three years before the 1967 Six Day War!
Well! That is an inconvenient truth that Israel’s many detractors either don’t know, or want to sweep under the rug. So what was the PLO really trying to liberate? All of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—exactly what the Palestinians really want, right up to this very minute. (http://blog.beliefnet.com/isittheendoftheworld/2011/09/free-palestine.html)
Do you understand the significance of that? The Palestine…Liberation…Organization—dedicated to liberating Palestine from the Jews—came into being long before Israel allegedly destroyed Middle East peace by “occupying” Palestinian land. In 1964, the whole of Jerusalem’s Old City was in Arab hands, as was the West Bank.
All this compelling history came back to me when I watched the film “Little Town of Bethlehem” recently. A group called “Global Voices for Nonviolence” partnered with EGM Films, the producer of the film, and Beliefnet, to screen “Little Town of Bethlehem” online and host a Washington D.C. conference.
I watched the film, twice. I was stunned by the bias/propaganda masquerading as a non-partisan film. Three men are interviewed by director Jim Hanon: Sami Awad, from Bethlehem and executive director of the Holy Land Trust; Ahmad Al’Azzeh, a Muslim; and Israeli pacifist Yonatan Shapira. Each man presents the Palestinian narrative: Israel oppresses the Palestinians.
One of the themes of the film is the odious, clumsy, and offensive allusion to the Holocaust. In other words, because the Jews were oppressed by the Nazis, well, unfortunately, they are now taking it out on the Arabs.
Any real Israeli context is missing from the film. Because EGM Films is financed by Hobby Lobby’s Mart Green, the production values for “Little Town of Bethlehem” are outstanding. Add to this mix the fact that the Palestinian narrative is the backbone of the film, and you have a recipe for a hit-piece on the state of Israel.
I traveled to Oklahoma City to interview Hanon and tour the EGM offices. Everyone was exceptionally nice, and Hanon especially emphasized his belief in non-violent models for conflict resolution. This is commendable.
What isn’t commendable is the production of such a one-sided film. You see, to feature a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew appears to be the very definition of balance. Yet I am reminded of what the late journalist David Bar Illan once said, and I’m paraphrasing: media will host programs about the Middle East conflict and in the interests of “balance,” interview an Arab who hates Israel, and a Jew who hates Israel. So you get to hear from “both sides,” Arabs and Jews.
And to hear the team at “Little Town of Bethlehem” tell it, Israel is the reason for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. But have they really not noticed a spike in Christians fleeing since Yasser Arafat’s PLO was handed the keys to power in the territories in the early ‘90s? We are back to the Seven Arches Hotel story.
I’ve talked with Palestinians there, too. Most cannot reveal their names for fear of backlash from their own people, who have a vested interest in continuing to demonize Israel.
Because young people in America today (I mean high school-age to 30-ish) respond emotionally to story, to narrative, “Little Town of Bethlehem” will no doubt have an impact that will be detrimental to Israel. Why? Because facts, the Jewish state’s greatest ally (recall the Seven Arches story), are pushed to the side. Instead, we hear about the brutal “Goliath” oppressing the weak “David.”
Some people are stunned to learn that Israel did not possess the West Bank in 1964, the year the Palestine Liberation Organization was formed ostensibly to “recover” the West Bank! Does that mean anything to you?
The same type of skewed story is being told today: powerful Israel is holding the Middle East hostage. Who knew that the little town of Bethlehem would wind up being a new front in that old war?